DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Kathe Koja Velocities (2020) *

* (Halloween countdown post #2)

 

‘Kathe Koja’s work has always wrestled with complex issues: the limits of agonistic art, performance/performativity, and expressions of embodiment. From her groundbreaking debut novel, The Cipher (1991), to her 1997 collection Extremities, the author often evaluates these topics through the porous boundaries of horror. Of course, it is not only Koja’s compelling thematic engagements that set her writing apart, but also her crackling, inimitable, urgent prose style.

‘Koja’s career-long fixations persist in her new collection, Velocities, one of the most vital, haunting, and commanding genre releases in recent years. Particularly noteworthy is the book’s interest in art (especially performance art) as a catalyst for negotiations with trauma. Two stand-out examples are “Velocity,” which sees its performance artist reliving a horrific event through his work, and “Pas de Deux,” which depicts a woman grappling with the interior catharsis of dance versus exterior demands on her body. Indeed, this tension between desires of interiority and those of embodied, physical reality (central to novels like Skin [1993] and Strange Angels [1994]) shows up repeatedly throughout this collection.

‘When dealing with Koja, one of the twentieth century’s major American horror novelists, it seems impossible to avoid the question of genre. Is Velocities a “genre” collection? Undoubtedly Koja lays bare her expertise on genre forms and modes (“The Marble Lily” might be the most convincing contemporary imitation of nineteenth-century Gothic I’ve read), but this book circumvents categorical structures at nearly every turn. Within the first couple stories, it dawned on me that Koja’s fiction is simply a genre unto itself; hers is a body of work defined by singular style. Truly, Koja’s voice is among the most distinctive and invigorating I have encountered.

‘Koja maximizes on that which is specific to the written medium; her wildly unique prose style delivers affective experiences that I cannot imagine transmitting fully to any other artistic form. At the same time, though, this author draws often on the tactility of performance and dance, imagining the many ways in which artistic modes can either mirror or contend with each other.

‘Suffice to say that Velocities is, like any other Koja book, a major event. This writer’s work has had more impact on me and my work than I can express. Time and again, her fiction has reinvigorated me and helped me to imagine the boundless literary potential of genre. It is no exaggeration to say that she is among the most important writers in horror, and a major figure in contemporary American fiction more broadly.’ — Mike Thorn

 

____
Further

Kathe Koja Site
Kathe Koja @ goodreads
Kathe Koja @ Twitter
The Exchange: Kathe Koja @ The New Yorker
Podcast: What the Fish Went Through with Kathe Koja
AN INTERVIEW WITH KATHE KOJA
Velocities: Stories by Kathe Koja – weird from the inside out
Hi Kathe! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
Kathe Koja is creating Immersive fiction
A new voice in historical fiction
The Horror! The Horror! – Kathe Koja
Exclusive Interview: Velocities Author Kathe Koja
Hash it out with Kathe Koja in Episode 98 of Eating the Fantastic
Happy Sunday, Witches!
Dancing in the dark at Kathe Koja’s DARK FACTORY
This Is What Kathe Koja’s THE CIPHER would be if it was a fun little short sci-fi film…
Women in Horror – Interview with Kathe Koja
‘Queen of Angels’, by Kathe Koja
Kathe Koja on Godmothers of Horror: Emily Brontë & Mary Shelley
Kathe Koja Visits Minuteman
Buy ‘Velocities’

 

___
Extras


NVF Films Interview with Kathe Koja


Virtual Memories #373 – Kathe Koja


Kathe Koja Reads from The Marble Lily


Kathe Koja presents #Velocities in 60 seconds


Lovecraft eZine: Guest: Kathe Koja

 

____
Interview

 

Weirdfictionreview.com: What writers were your introduction to “the weird,” whether the Weird Tales kind of weird or something even stranger?

Kathe Koja: Growing up, I read a ton of poetry and ghost stories, but the ones who made a lasting impression were M.R. James, Poe, Stoker; Shirley Jackson came later, as did Angela Carter and Flannery O’Connor. And Wuthering Heights made a *huge* impression on me, too … I gravitate toward intensity.

WFR: What kinds of things did you read and think “this is not for me”?

Koja: To be honest, I can’t remember: that stuff made no lasting impression. Extrapolating backward, I’d imagine it was anything that was too “nice,” too sure of itself, too ready to proffer an explanation for life. Certainly I read my share of crap, which is a good thing — it’s what helps develop your shit detector.

WFR: Was weird fiction welcome in your household growing up? Can you give a sense of your childhood as it relates to your writing?

Koja: The single greatest contribution to my sense of the mysterious as a matter-of-fact was being brought up Catholic. Cheek-by-jowl since infancy with the spirit world, with miracles and blood.

WFR: Can you give us a sense of what that’s like for a child? Was there a time as a child where you took that all literally to some extent?

Koja: Sure, every day. Grown-ups tell you that the stovetop is hot, you touch it: the stovetop is hot. Grown-ups tell you that a vial of blood liquefies on a certain saint’s day every year; why shouldn’t that be true, too?

I can’t speak to what growing up in a religiously observant household is like to a child, but I can say that for me as a child, Catholicism offered an entry into a repertoire almost unmatched of the grisly, radiant, and strange, a world both within and enclosing the everyday world one glimpsed, well, every day. And so much of the iconography was pretty fucking punk rock, as the late Jim Carroll once observed.

WFR: Do you see a difference between “horror” and “the weird” and “the gothic,” and does it matter to you as either a writer or reader?

Koja: Second question first: No, because I don’t read by genre, I read by voice; and when I’m writing, my own voice is always my own: weird stuff, YA stuff, historical, whatever the genre may be.

And first question, yes, there are striations between those genres, or subgenres, but I don’t know that it’s meaningful to me as a reader to parse them. Like the working definition/recognition of art and pornography, I know what I like when I see it, and if I don’t like it I put it away.

WFR: What do you think is the appeal of weird fiction generally? The scare? Catharsis? Something else?

Koja: Perhaps the frisson of confirmation: knowing that other eyes have seen that, yes, all is not what we think it is, all is not as it appears, and is stranger than we can imagine, no matter what the culture at large might pretend. Reading history is good for this too, but you have to be careful about your sources.

WFR: How mysterious can a story remain by the end and keep your attention? If “very mysterious,” what is it you’re enjoying that substitutes for explanation?

Koja: I enjoy the mystery itself: it exercises the sense of awe and the problem-solving beaver that is the brain, both at the same time. And it respects my intelligence, my own ability as a reader to fathom and puzzle stuff out.

WFR: What influences do you think readers might be surprised by?

Koja: Depends on the reader, but maybe Thomas Merton and Louisa May Alcott (not just Little Women, but Eight Cousins, Rose In Bloom, all of it). And Jack London!

WFR: When the weird in weird fiction fails for you, what’s usually the reason?

Koja: Trying too hard. It’s like laughter or desire: the more you try to force it, the less possible it becomes.

WFR: What constitutes “trying too hard”?

Koja: When you can feel the hot breath of the writer on your neck. When capital‑E Effects are forced upon you. When it feels like the guy in the next-to-last booth at Shoney’s trying to explain his dreams, with napkin drawings.

WFR: Is there such a thing as “too weird”? What does “too weird” mean to you when someone says it about your own work?

Koja: It means my stuff is probably not for them. And yes, sure, there’s the “too weird” threshold for any- and everybody. I don’t know that I’ve crossed mine yet as a reader/listener/art-and-movie viewer; the frontier looms ahead.

That said, there is a real difference to me between “weird” and “ugly.” Cruelty to the helpless is irredeemably ugly and I can’t stomach it.

WFR: You mean cruelty to the helpless in fiction? What other things turn you off in fiction?

Koja: In the real world double, triple, a million times yes: the human race’s force majeure vis-à-vis every other species on the planet is ugly to see.

In fiction, if you strip cruelty of its meaning, and use it as a casual effect, I don’t want to read your stuff.

WFR: Is the “reveal” of the other-worldly element in a supernatural story the toughest part for the writer to get right? How do you know how much to reveal and how much to hold back?

Koja: You have to let the story itself guide you, or I do, anyway. I never plan or outline, I follow the text, because the text is always right. The text also sometimes says, “This story is not for you to write, try again later, or never,” so in sorrow I have to obey that, too.

WFR: Once you finish writing a draft of a story, then, to what extent do you “test” your instincts in revision?

Koja: I do very little rewriting. Mostly it’s at the behest of my three first readers: Rick Lieder, Christopher Schelling, and Carter Scholz. Their insights are invaluable to me and I respect what they say. If any or all of them find something unclear in a narrative, or call me out on word usage, or think something is Just No Good, then I listen and go back and look. Sometimes I disagree. Sometimes I change it.

WFR: How often does the real world give you something seemingly inexplicable, something weird, that becomes a spark for a story or novel?

Koja: All the time. A story is an interaction between a being or beings and the surrounding environment, whether that environment is spiritual, internal, emotional, set in the Pleistocene, a haunted house, Marie Antoinette’s last levee, whatever. It’s the playground, the pantry, the backdrop, the dictionary of what story can and does do: it’s the World, however that’s defined for the moment of the narrative.

WFR: Can a story appear to be haunted beyond the intent of the writer?

Koja: Best case scenario!

WFR: What’s the weirdest piece of fiction, story or novel, that you’ve ever read? Why?

Koja: M.R. James and that toothed, bearded mouth under the mundane nighttime pillow. “Casting the Runes” — read at your own risk.

WFR: Not the white blob in the slideshow?!

Koja: That was very bad, too. Actually I just saw a puppet performance in which one of the actors dressed as La Llorona and moved amongst the kids in the audience, scaring the shit out of several. Reminded me fondly of that magic lantern slideshow.

WFR: Finally, if you had to pick one weird writer who is overlooked and needs to be resurrected and better appreciated, who would it be and why?

Koja: Angela Carter, Angela Carter, Angela Carter! Because she is brilliant; because her fairy tales casually gut everything else and lesser; because she can do it all in a compact and elegant space and leave you thinking it over for days at a time, and remembering it forever. Because she could write so much so effortlessly; get her essays, too, while you’re assembling the oeuvre.

 

__
Book

Kathe Koja Velocities
Meerkat Press

‘These tales have an estimable provenance: “Fireflies” first appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction (2002), “Road Trip” in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 16 (2002), and other stories in similarly respected books. In “Velocity,” an artist creates his art by running bicycles into trees. This act may be his unorthodox way of understanding his famous architect father’s suicide, which likewise entailed driving into a tree. Some of the characters in these generally grim stories come to terms with a tragedy they don’t want to face: The man in “Road Trip” has intermittent flashes of a car accident (or moments before), and he not only mourns losing a loved one, but his responsibility for the fatality. Other characters, like Anne in “Coyote Pass,” have trouble simply moving on. Anne had cared for her ailing art-collector mother, Susan, for years. Now that Susan has died, Anne wants to adopt a dog, which her mother had never allowed—but getting a puppy from the kennel takes a bizarre, unsettling turn. Koja tackles a handful of genres, including SF, somber drama, and sublimely understated horror. Nevertheless, the highlight of this impressive collection is the Poe-esque “The Marble Lily,” one of two stories herein that hasn’t been previously published. In it, a morgue janitor in Paris closely observes a female cadaver that he believes holds some sort of mystery. Koja’s prose throughout the book provides a bevy of indelible passages: “He pressed her leg, the bare skin below the edge of her cutoffs; his hand was warm, with long strong workman’s fingers, small hard spots like rivets on the palm, his skin a topographic map of his days: cut wood, carry water, name and number and know all the plants in the world.”’ — Kirkus Reviews

______
Excerpts

from Baby

It’s hot in here, and the air smells sweet, all sweet and burned, like incense. I love incense, but I can never have any; my allergies, right? Allergic to incense, to cigarette smoke, to weed smoke, to smoke in general, the smoke from the grill at Rob’s Ribs, too, so goodbye to that, and no loss either, I hate this job. The butcher’s aprons are like circus tents, like 3X, and those pointy paper hats we have to wear—“Smokin’ Specialist,” god. They look like big white dunce caps, even Rico looks stupid wearing one and Rico is hot. I’ve never seen anyone as hot as he is.

The only good thing about working here—besides Rico—is hanging out after shift, up on the rooftop while Rob and whoever swabs out the patio, and everyone jokes and flirts, and, if Rob isn’t paying too much attention, me and Rico shotgun a couple of cans of Tecate or something. Then I lean as far over the railing as I can, my hands gripping tight, the metal pressing cold through my shirt; sometimes I let my feet leave the patio, just a few inches, just balancing there on the railing, in thin air . . . Andy always flips when I do it, he’s all like Oh Jani don’t do that Jani you could really hurt yourself! You could fall!

Oh Andy, I always say; Andy’s like a mom or something. Calm down, it’s only gravity, only six floors up but still, if you fell, you’d be a plate of Rob’s Tuesday night special, all bones and red sauce; smush, gross, right? But I love doing it. You can feel the wind rush up between the buildings like invisible water, stealing your breath, filling you right up to the top. It’s so weird, and so choice . . . Like the feeling I always got from you, Baby.

It’s kind of funny that I never called you anything else, just Baby; funny that I even found you, up there in Grammy’s storage space, or crawl space, or whatever it’s called when it’s not really an attic, but it’s just big enough to stand up in. Boxes were piled up everywhere, but mostly all I’d found were old china cup-and-saucer sets, and a bunch of games with missing pieces—Stratego, and Monopoly, and Clue; I already had Clue at home; I used to totally love Clue, even though I cheated when I played, sometimes. Well, all the time. I wanted to win. There were boxes and boxes of Grampy’s old books, doctor books; one was called Surgical Procedures and Facial Deformities and believe me, you did not want to look at that. I flipped it open on one picture where this guy’s mouth was all grown sideways, and his eyes—his eye— Anyway. After that I stayed away from the boxes of books.

And then I found you, Baby, stuffed down in a big box of clothes, chiffon scarves and unraveling lace, the cut-down skirts of fancy dresses, and old shirts like Army uniforms, with steel buttons and appliqués. At the bottom of the box were all kinds of shoes, spike heels, and a couple of satin evening bags with broken clasps. At first I thought you were a kind of purse, too, or a bag, all small and yellow and leathery. But then I turned you over, and I saw that you had a face.

*

 

from Pas De Deux

She liked them young, young men; princes. She liked them young when she could like them at all because by now, by this particular minute in time, she had had it with older men, clever men, men who always knew what to say, who smiled a certain kind of smile when she talked about passion, about the difference between hunger and love. The young ones didn’t smile, or if they did it was with a touching puzzlement because they didn’t quite see, weren’t sure, didn’t fully understand: knowing best what they did not know, that there was still so much to learn.

“Learn what?” Edward’s voice from the cage of memory, deep voice, “what’s left to learn?” Reaching for the bottle and the glass, pouring for himself. “And who’ll do the teaching? You?” That smile like an insect’s, like the blank button eyes of a doll made of metal, made from a weapon, born from a knife and see him there, pale sheets crushed careless at the foot of the bed, big canopied bed like a galleon inherited from his first wife—the sheets, too, custom-made sheets—all of it given them as a wedding present by his first wife’s mother: Adele, her name was and he liked to say it, liked to pretend—was it pretense?—that he had fucked her, too, going from mother to daughter in a night, a suite of nights, spreading the seed past four spread legs, and prim Alice could never compare, said Edward, with the grand Adele, Adele the former ballet dancer, Adele who had been everywhere, lived in Paris and Hong Kong, written a biography of Balanchine, Adele who wore nothing but black from the day she turned twenty-one, and “I don’t understand,” he would say, head back, knee bent, his short fat cock like some half-eaten sausage, “what you think you can teach me, aren’t you being just a little bit absurd?”

“We all have something to learn,” she said, and he laughed, left the room to return with a book, Balanchine & Me: Balanchine in color on the cover, a wee black-and-white of Adele on the back. “Read this,” putting the book into her hands. “Find out how much you don’t know.” Whiskey breath and settling back into bed, glass on his chest, big hairy chest like an animal’s, he liked to lie naked with the windows open, lie there and look at her, and “Are you cold?” he would say, knowing she was freezing, that her muscles were cramping. “Do you feel a draft?”

No, she could have said, or yes or fuck you or a million other responses, but in the end she had made none of them, said nothing, got out. Left him there in his canopied bed and found her own place, her own space, living above her studio: dance studio, she had been away for a long time but now she was back and soon, another month or two, she would have enough money maybe to keep the heat on all the time, keep the lights on, keep going. Keep on going: that was her word now, her world, motion at any cost. She was too old to be a dancer? had been away too long, forgotten too much, lost the fascistic grace of the body in torment, the body as a tool of motion, of the will? No. As long as she had legs, arms, a back to bend or twist, as long as she could move she could dance.

Alone.
In the cold.
In the dark.

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Armando, Thanks. Happy that the post hit your zeitgeist. Well, let’s just completely agree to completely disagree on Noe then. Simple enough. Yes, I got your email. Hugs back, sir. ** Misanthrope, Excellent! About the work-related satisfaction. Surely that trouble maker formerly known as LPS can find something in Halloween to sink his teeth into. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Ooh, that does sound fun and interesting. The assignment. Be twisty. ** G, Hi, G! Very happy the post set off fireworks inside mighty you. I have read the novel, and I liked it very much. She’s an excellent scribe. If I had come across a jpeg or gif of that scene/moment in question, you can bet it would have been at the top of the stack or even acting as the post’s crown. Strange I didn’t (come across one). Oh, no, I found the Haneke interview somewhere online. Never met the man, unfortunately, so far. Of course the crappy aspect of the teaching comes from the top. You know me and power structures, but what can you do, you know? I’m glad it’s mostly an upper and promising. Cool about the lecture watchers liking ‘3:45 AM’. That’s not a given these days, goodness knows. Thank you for including it. Same goes to you for the constant inspiration, my friend. Have a swell Friday. It’s deluging rain here today, but no problem. ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian! A very warm welcome to here, sir! I’m, of course, pleased that the post aligned with your interest in Haneke. Interesting about ‘… the most ethically minded … ‘. I can see that, and I think I would agree. I do really like ‘The White Ribbon’. It’s among my favourites of his. ‘Cache’ is very good. They’re all very worth seeing. There is this kind of vibe about Russia where you can believe there are cannibal cults there. Its charisma is very roomy. Yes, QAnon latched onto the blog for about 48 hours a couple of months ago, briefly deciding it was a portal for child trafficking and snuff or something. But then I think realising that the other posts here are about amusement parks and brainiac film/art/writing confused them, and they moved on. Or, oh, I hope so. Scary times are the words. Thanks again for talking with me. Please do so again at the drop of a hat. How are you, apart from the scariness buffeting. What are you up to? ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Mm, I don’t think Haneke’s work is sadistic. I don’t think it intends to humiliate or cause harm, etc. and take pleasure in that. I think it’s manipulative, sometimes too overtly and/or ambitiously, but that’s very different. Good luck isolating that clipping sound. Nice idea. ** Dominik, Hi, Dom! Yeah, if you watch ‘Funny Games’, watch the original, not the English remake, or that’s my advice anyway. Unless you really, really like Michael Pitt. Ah, you know, you’ve seen one boner, you’ve seen ’em all, ha ha. I get a huge amount of ‘rescued animal’ videos on Facebook. Constantly. And I guess I do pause occasionally to watch them. And I guess they know I do. Technology is so weird. Thank you for the promise of funding our film if you get super wealthy! Cheap Trick! You must know I passionately love Cheap Trick! Thank you, thank you. Love that transforms that super tall column in Hősök tere into a giant boner belonging to the boy of your choice and turns Archangel Gabriel into a voluminous spurt of his cum, Dennis. ** Bill, Hi, Bill! I liked ‘Happy End’. It seemed to divide a lot of people I know, and I wouldn’t put it at the top of his oeuvre necessarily, but it’s odd and sharp, I think. The last time I’d heard/seen the words ‘tea lights’ was out of the mouth of my late grandmother many decades ago, so good question. Oh, no, the return of the skyward diceyness. Good luck, pal. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I’ve heard that too about Haneke personally. Not a surprise really, maybe surprisingly. ** Nick Toti, Hi there, Nick. Good to see you, bud! I do know the work of David Shields, yes. I don’t know him personally. He’s very good. That’s a fantastic idea/possibility: you adapting him. My esteem for him just went further up based his taste in adapters. Cool, man. All luck on that working out if you need luck. If Parc Asterix didn’t have a Halloween makeover with four haunted houses for me to visit soon, I might indeed be a basket case. Take care. ** Okay. I thought I would take the occasion of Halloween to throw some light on one of the books by horror (and more) auteur/author Kathe Koja. Give it your shot. See you tomorrow.

16 Comments

  1. Hi! I’m a day late but I loved the Haneke day, such a great director. I hadn’t heard of some of the smaller films, got some catching up to do.

    I got some good news today (besides the trump covid news that just came out haha), my collection / first real print book is coming out from House of Vlad early next year (probably February). Can I email you the galley?

    Glad you’re back online, hope things are going as well as they can in 2020 💜

  2. Cooper!
    Ooooh thank you for the intro to Kathe Koja. I might have to get Velocity. That does sound like just the thing for my current mood.
    The Steve McQueen show. Yes I did see the piece about the boy alive on a boat floating above Caribbean waters like a sun angel vs being buried under cement amongst stray dogs to the scratchy sound of the pallet knife. Carib’s Leap it’s called I think. And yes, fantastic piece. I think my favourite was the one where his cousin talks about (spoiler alert) accidentally killing his brother. To me that one was pretty much the apex of what I think he does so uniquely well: gleaming, razor-sharp formalism and intense, heartfelt emotion and pathos. That’s a combination I am a sucker for as you probably know, and not exactly a niche one, but rarely achieved that well. I tend to agree with you re: his non-“arty” films, but I do love them too. They have become less and less arty though and I wish he’d go backwards now, because I think Hunger was a fucking masterpiece and it did happen at that sweet spot mentioned above. It was kinda like everything he does perfectly, plus Enda Walsh’s perfect script and Fassbender’s perfect presence. More of that kind of stuff, Steve!

  3. Thanks for this introduction to Kathe Koja!

    Orhangina and the whore he’s currently married to have tested positive for the disease he claimed was a “hoax” AND I COULDN’T BE MORE DELIGHTED !

    I’m preparing an obit for the POS who apparently got it from his favorite Assistant Whore Hope Hicks.

  4. Ooh new short horror fiction sounds just about right for my headspace at this moment. Have sprung for Ms Koja’s tome and am looking forward to it.

  5. Hey,

    How are you today?

    Thank You so much for the email!

    So, like I said:

    “so, that lux aeterna thing is just the two actresses in very long takes with 1 half of the screen for each one and then at the end some kind of shit hits the fan and madness takes over? or how is it?

    […]

    so my description of this lux aeterna thing is accurate or what is it like? what happens? lots of long-ass takes? it seems i could like another film by that director besides ‘CLIMAX’. though i doubt very much itll ever be available on bluray/dvd… that fucking sucks. IT SUCKS SO MUCH.”

    Take very good care,

    Plans for today?

    Good day, good luck,

    a.

  6. Hi!!

    ‘Funny Games’ is one of my weekend plans. And though I don’t have anything against Michael Pitt (I particularly like a few of his scenes in Gus Van Sant’s ‘Last Days’), I think I’ll still go with the original version.

    I just finished watching ‘Who Took Johnny’, a documentary about Johnny Gosch. I’ve been trying to talk myself out of watching it because I already knew about the case and it’s such an infuriating mess with so, so many theories and so few actual details, it always drives me crazy. But, of course, I couldn’t resist.

    Haha, this love made me laugh so hard. Hősök tere would look much better with this centerpiece! Love eating way too much cold sesame noodles and puking glitter all over the place, D.

  7. Brian O'Connell

    October 2, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    Hey, Dennis,

    I’m quite a horror/weird fiction fan, so I’m ashamed to admit that Koja has been a major omission in my reading, despite the fact that I’ve been hearing about how great her work is for years. I’ll have to get “The Cipher”. The premise sounds chilling.

    Will also have to follow through on those two Hanekes, and the rest. I think he’s “ethical” in that he’s more resolute than any other director, at least in my viewing experience, in getting the audience to really consider their relationship to images of cruelty and suffering. He also strives to present violence as ugly and un-titillating as it is in the real world, which is rare. I’d agree that he’s not a sadist; I actually think he’s resolutely against sadistic filmmaking (whatever dubious pleasure I get out of viewing the original “Funny Games”, probably the most spooked I’ve been watching a movie, is more masochistic than anything else).

    Your brush with the Q creeps sounds very typical of them: seize on something for a short period of time, then discard it in favor of other things they think they can fit into their psychotic worldview, etc. It’s when they get the mainstream culture in on it, as we unfortunately witnessed with “Cuties”, that they can be really pernicious and dangerous. But I’ll stop discussing them now: they tend to swarm where they’re mentioned, and they’re not worth the attention anyway.

    As for what I’m up to: not much at all beyond the scariness buffeting, unfortunately. I’m attending my first semester of college from home due to the pandemic; the work is interesting and I like my professors and peers quite a lot, but given the circumstances I feel more like I’m going through the motions of education than anything else. In a word, I’m very bored, when I’m not depressed or frightened. I have Halloween to look forward to, at least. Been doing quite a lot of reading as well—incidentally, given Koja’s endorsement in the Weird Fiction Review interview you cite on here, I just finished Angela Carter’s “The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman”. (It was great.) Next up is Jonathan Littell’s “The Kindly Ones”, the Holocaust novel that polarized all of Western civilization when it dropped in 2006. Like your own work, I found that one through John Waters, who apparently has proven to possess impeccable literary taste. I’ll have to determine if it’s really as irresponsible and grotesque as the American critics have made it out to be. Should be interesting if nothing else. Have you read/heard anything interesting about it?

    As always, hope things are doing well on your side of the Atlantic. How are Halloween preparations going? Sending good vibes your way.

    • Brian, I loved The Kindly Ones. Like Haneke’s work, I think it is a great example of how to use violence to put the reader off the notion that there is any glamour in murder. There is a passage in there about what it’s like to use a gun that has stuck with me for years. And beyond subject matter I just found it a really brilliant piece of writing. Please post your thoughts on it when you’ve finished it, I’d love to hear what you think–I’ve never met anyone who has read it, so I’m curious about how it will strike you.

      • Brian O'Connell

        October 5, 2020 at 2:47 am

        Maryse, sorry for the late response. Now you’ve got me really excited to read it! The things you’ve shared about it sound amazing. I’ll absolutely share my thoughts here when I’m done. I expect I’ll have a lot to say, lol.

  8. I understand ‘Lux Aeterna’ is an Yves Saint Laurent ad? And that it’s a mockumentary? Anyway, I’d really appreciate it if you would answer my questions above about the film.

  9. Learning about Trump’s diagnosis at 1:30 am last night was a trip, and not necessarily a bad one. I’ve been glued to the news all day today.

    I got a Leopold & Loeb vibe from the killers in the FUNNY GAMES remake, which only one other person has ever told me they also perceived. Even though Peter and Paul’s actions and even the dialogue are basically the same in both versions, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet’s performances reminded me of ROPE. In my aborted interview with Haneke, I asked if he felt any kinship with the New French Extremity, and he said he felt much closer to Kiarostami.

    I’d read Koja’s work in the 2000s, and then she fell off my radar, so thanks for reminding me that she’s still publishing. I started Luc Sante’s new essay collection today.

  10. Corey Heiferman

    October 3, 2020 at 4:48 am

    Not one lazy sentence in those excerpts and I trust that equally good excerpts could’ve been taken from throughout the books. Thanks for the intro to Koja’s work. The only person I send my English writing to has been consistently nudging me in a pulpier direction and I’m slowly taking him up on it.

    I’d love it if you restored Robbie Basho Day sometime. I realize the schedule must be tight with Halloween posts this time of year.

    That’s cool you have a friend in Tbilsi. It’s very high on my travel list for whenever the pandemic ends. Well-regarded as a fun quick and inexpensive getaway from Tel Aviv.

    It’s been a good but difficult visit to my parents. My dad is very weak but still very much himself. My mom’s working very hard to take care of him and he’s gaining some strength back with physical therapy. His condition is relatively stable but we have to go one day at a time. My sister’s coming in a little over a week.

    I had a promising interview for a full-time technical writing job this week (based in Tel Aviv). And I’m waiting to hear back about continuing a cloud-based side gig as a technical editor. Landing both would keep me busy but also give my lifestyle a major boost. I think the tradeoff would be worth it.

    “Renderings”, a collection of Max Kozloff’s art criticism, is one of the books in the I left here at my parents’ house. It’s very dense and thought-provoking. I find it hard to believe the essays were originally published in magazines.

    Could you give a vicarious thrill and link to an art show you went to recently and enjoyed, maybe one that won’t make it into a post in the near future?

    P.P.S. In case you’re curious what Jerusalem death metal sounds like, here it is:
    https://karkait.bandcamp.com/album/yekum-kiyum

  11. LOOK AT THAT FIRST PHOTO. Just LOOK at it. Was there ever a better author photo in the history of author photos??????!!!! Was there ever a bigger, more fabulous pair of hoop earrings?! A more intense head of hair?! I mean what a GODDESS.

    First Haneke, then Kathe–not sure I’ll survive til Halloween if the blog keeps this level of bliss up!

    I’m a day late, but I have to say that I agree with another commenter that Haneke is one of the few artists whom I trust to depict extreme violence in an ethical way. He doesn’t take pleasure in it, which is why I woudn’t call him a sadist. And he allows violence to be essentially inscrutable, despite his heavy handedness, his sort of fixed attitudes towards culture. He lets violence be truly horrific partly because he lets it be essentially unknowable, unexplainable. There is a respect for suffering that redeems his cynicism–I wish he was a little more generous about humanity, a little less dour sometimes, but then again that’s just his thing and he does it really well, I think. And I love the way he lets the audience just *look* at what’s onscreen–he makes preparing a breakfast as act worthy of all our attention, he makes objects and gestures really take on such significance, even charm. He focuses on the manipulation of objects and their presence as a much more significant way to get at “meaning” than psychology or backstory. There is something so tactile about his work, aside from the intensity of the violence. In a way, perversely, it seems to me to be a way to celebrate the beauty of life, the way something like Binoche ironing for ten minutes in Cache can make you think, wow, ironing is kind of a great thing. I mean it’s meaningless but also…all these mundane things carry within them such mystery. I don’t think he intends that, necessarily–I think he’d probably laugh to hear my interpretation of Binoche’s laundry–but I am so totally in love with the way objects and gestures live in his movies. And I think that all comes with the quality of the films’ attention to those things, the way he gives them space within these claustrophobic narratives. For years I have tried to figure out how to create space like that in my work, a huge challenge–just as Kathe’s work challenged me as a young reader to reconsider what horror was/could be. Both such great inspirations.

    Whew, long live the king and queen!

    And a wink of the jack-o’lantern to the grand dame himself–thanks, D!

    xoxoooxox

    xoxoxooxoxoxox

  12. Kathe!! Special K!  :Falls off couch::

    –No u guyz srsly listen omg U GUYZ–

    Maryse read “Strange Angels” when we were 12 or 13, cried for two days straight, told me I had to read it.  So I read it and I also cry for two days straight.  I got my degrees in psych because of that book (I mean psychology can go straight to hell but I’m grateful for the education). 

    My husband invited Kathe to our university (cuz he’s a champ) years ago and I couldn’t believe that first time when Kathe motherfucking Koja, coolest kid in school, was in her pjs sitting on my sister’s bed for a sleepover just chatting away, brushing her teeth, being fabulous with that ridiculously amazing mane of hair.  Then Kathe asked Maryse to write the afterword for the reissue of The Cipher that was released just last month.  Fam, if you told my 12 year old self all this was going to happen she would have shat her pants.  Moral of story: life is magical (I mean in between majorly fucking you in the ass in completely non-consensual and egregious ways). 

    What Kathe is the best at is her ability to create a particular feeling/mood in her work that you want to disappear in, despite everyone being abjectly poor and depressed and never getting the things they want and making the absolute worst life decisions.  Her characters are losers but she somehow makes you want to be them–or at least be close to them.  She creates affection and solidarity rather than pity.

    Also: Haneke, another a teen idol of mine.  I was reading these old NAMBLA bulletins a few years ago (and during this research phase way too many people on the CTA would ask me  “hey, watcha readin’?”  And, like…how… in the world …do you explain…what you are reading? )  and there was a photo in one of the bulletins that seemed familiar but I couldn’t quite place it–then I realized it was a still from Benny’s Video.  Those trifling ass b*tches sexualized what was an awful, sad moment in the film because, you know, boyz r sexy even if they’re having an existential breakdown of epic proportions.  Tee he!

    Anyway, Heavy D, guess who has already committed to the Horror of Humanities Haunted House this year? Kathe Koja. 
     ::Nudge nudge wink wink poke poke shuffle-step tap twirl:: 
    I’m also doing a dance thing for the haunted house in honor of you, Sunn O))) and Vienne for it. It involves Javanese masks and hoodies.  So basically all the cool kids are doing this HH thing. I’m serious it’s a fact it’s totally not peer pressure & don’t you miss being paid shockingly low wages for your art??  

    Peace in the Middle East,

    -Alpha Twin XXL

    PS:  Road trip to ride some ‘coasters next spring, you ask?  I. call. shotgun. 

  13. Well this is a fun place to find myself! And what a comprehensive shout-out – thank you much. I. do wish I still had those earrings . . . Maryse’s incisive and heartfelt afterword for CIPHER is worth the price of admission. And agreed, D, HH is the cool kids’ landing strip this year. And what year could rhyme harder with horror?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2021 DC's

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑